Starring John Goodman. Rated 14A. Now playing.
I've reviewed five horror flicks this year, and not one of them—including the much ballyhooed The Witch—has blown me away. So I'm very happy to report that 10 Cloverfield Lane did exactly that. It's the best scary movie of 2016 (so far).
The good stuff starts when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead from the crappy remake of The Thing) gets knocked unconscious in a fierce car crash that's strikingly intercut with the opening titles. When she comes to she finds herself chained to the floor on a mattress in a grubby, windowless room—although her injuries have been attended to. Her captor, hulking survivalist Howard (the ever-awesome John Goodman), claims that he saved her, that she wouldn't have survived outside because the air has been contaminated by some kind of "attack" from enemies unknown.
"What are you going to do to me?" asks the terrified woman. "I'm going to keep you alive," he replies.
Howard holds Michelle in the well-stocked, underground bunker he constructed at the titular address, and tells her they'll have to wait out the contamination for a year, maybe two. Also taking shelter is local good-old-boy Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who helped him build it.
As the trio passes the time doing puzzles, playing board games, and watching Howard's old VHS movies, the mood swings back and forth from comical to foreboding. Howard is one strange, heavy-breathing bird, but Michelle comes to trust him when—during a thrilling escape attempt—she learns that something has indeed gone terribly wrong outside.
Howard is by turns vulnerable and menacing, and Goodman is perfect for the part. His paranoia-driven portrayal keeps you guessing about his motives and the validity of his contamination claim. You won't find any spoilers here, though, just a rabid recommendation to go into 10 Cloverfield Lane mostly blind and let its mysteries unfold like a long-lost, newly discovered Twilight Zone episode.
Because that's kinda what it is.